The old adage of getting back on the horse after you fall off certainly rings true for former Fleetwood woman Caroline Bradley.
Nine years ago Caroline thought her all-consuming hobby of riding ponies was finished forever after she suffered a serious fall from the saddle.
She was diagnosed with a broken back and although she was lucky not to be paralysed, she was still left with minimal movement for eight months.
However, a combination of determination and the arrival of a special pony called Townend Sonny has helped Caroline make a stirring recovery, returning to the highly-skilled equine sport of dressage.
This month she qualified for the second round of the Senior Showing and Dressage Ltd (SSADL) qualifiers at Aintree in June, Liverpool and if she gets through she and Sonny will qualify for the prestigious final at Olympia, London – her sport’s premier event.
Mum -of-one Caroline, 29, who now lives on Gordon Avenue, Thornton, said: “Sonny is truly one and a million and is a part of my family.
“After I was hurt I ended going on a website and saw a picture of a stunning black fell gelding. I didn’t know if I would recover but a friend convinced me to go and see the pony anyway. My dad ended up driving 265 miles to go and see him – I lay flat out on the back seat of the car all the way. As soon as the rug came off Sonny I just knew he was special and he became part of our family.”
That was the start of Caroline’s recovery. Supported by a body brace, she was able to start riding again and Sonny was so gentle it was almost as if he knew Caroline was fragile.
One of the biggest highlight was in 2010 when the pair qualified for the finals of Horse of the Year Show. In 2012 when Caroline got married, Sonny also played a big part at her wedding when he was taken to the church when she came out after the service.
And now Caroline’s two year old daughter, Amelia-Grace, has even started to ride him.
Caroline said: “I truly believe Sonny helped me recover so quickly from my accident and he looks after me every time I ride him.
“Now Sonny is 15 years old and we have started to enter the SSADL Olympia qualifiers, to gain this golden ticket would mean Sonny has made all my childhood dreams come true and make my family Christmas the best one yet.”